Stefanie Rudolph

Check patterns

Mens Fashion AW2021

Anything but a small affair

Checks all around us – from London to Paris. For the AW 2020 season, no catwalk can do without check patterns. Oversized checked shirts at the grunge-inspired Gucci show, elegant check suits at Armani or fancy statement coats by Etro? This autumn, check patterns are on offer for every item of clothing, every style and every taste – from glen check and plaids to Vichy and tartan - every pattern selection is proving to be a hit.

Although check patterns are reaching a particularly striking high this season, this trend is a recurring one – so where does the fascination with check patterns come from?

To start with, they are among the oldest patterns in the world. They retain their traditional character to this day and are still of cultural importance in certain regions of the world, such as Scotland.

It is assumed that the first "Scottish checks", or tartans, have their origins in the weaving process and were formed by combining light and dark sheep wool. Just like the marking of sheep, these patterns also varied from region to region and certain standards gradually came to be established. Even when artificial colouring was added, these tartans were still used to identify the inhabitants of a certain area. The Huntly District Tartan or the Glen Orchy District Tartan are examples of these regional designs.

From about 16th century onwards, the tartans ceased to act simply as regional markers – the association with individual clans started to take its course. In the Scots' disputes with the English, tartan obtained a degree of significance going beyond that of a piece of checked fabric. Anyone wearing a tartan was showing that he was a Scot, including in the political sense. Leaving aside the wearing of certain clothes for "merely" fashionable purposes – this remains the case to this day.

The lifting of the tartan ban, which had been imposed between 1748 and 1782, gave rise to a real tartan revival. The English upper class had discovered Scottish Highland culture as a new form of fashion for themselves and dressing "Scottish" was suddenly en vogue. This trend peaked when, in 1822, George IV was the first English ruler to visit Scotland wearing tartan.

The oldest woven tartan, however, comes from China. With archaeological finds confirming that these fabrics are over 3,500 years old, they served as a kind of headgear for jade figures and display the shapes that adorn handtowels today.

Check patterns not only have a long tradition, but also fashionable sophistication.

They go with almost everything and are relatively easy to style. On the one hand, it takes very little effort to create special eye catchers and on the other hand, there is so much room for combining elements that you can do little wrong, because this season, when it comes to checks everything goes:

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Check + Plain – simple, but special

The classic for those who like things neat and tidy. Whether a checked shirt with colour-coordinated plain trousers, a classy white shirt with checked statement trousers or a plain top with a glen check shirt or jacket on top – this combination offers room for manoeuvre without overdoing things.

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Check + Denim – inseparable for as long as anyone can remember

For those who like things a bit more casual, or can even tolerate a touch of western or country style, jeans & check patterns are the ideal combo. Those who prefer to give the whole thing a sporty touch, can complete the outfit with trainers and jogging pants, as in the picture on the left.

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Checks in a pattern mix – twice the impact

Stripes and checks? Fantasy prints and checks? Checks and checks? – it’s all good. Just one thing to remember: the colours shouldn’t deviate too much from one another – ideally, all patterns should contain isolated colours from the same colour family.

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Last but not least – checks from head to toe

Checks all over, whether as a suit or a shirt & trousers – everything from the same source. Not at all monotonous and low-brow.


In falling back on checks, you can't go far wrong, especially because this trend is far from a one-hit wonder. If you invest in high-quality products and materials, you’ll get to enjoy them again and again – at the latest when the next trend for checks comes around, and the next one after that… and also in between, because check patterns are avant-garde and never really out of fashion.

Stefanie Rudolph